David Nabarro is Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Food Security and Nutrition. In this World Economic Forum video, he says the world does produce enough food to feed all people in it, yet around one in seven are continuously hungry. Nabarro asks what’s going wrong with global food systems, and says it’s vital that farmers, food producers and consumers are involved in shaping future solutions.

Watch the full video above or read selected quotes below.

On empowering smallholders

For a long time governments focused on getting the greatest possible production – usually of cereals – out of the least area of land. Sound agricultural policy now focuses on helping smallholders to make a living. There are more than 500 million smallholder farming households in the world, and they produce most of the food that is eaten. By investing in smallholders, governments can produce food more efficiently, and enable some of the poorest to become more prosperous.

Many governments are now setting up schemes to support farmers through public-private partnerships. These work best when farmers come into them in groups as farmer organisations so they can compete, and also when the businesses that are involved adopt a set of principles for how they will work with the farmers.

Farmers should be able to continue to have rights on their land and get the best possible price for their production. In this way, the multi-stakeholder partnership helps the farmer produce more and get better access to inputs and the market. That leads to greater prosperity for farmers and better rural development.

On Grow Africa

Within the World Economic Forum there has been an interest in governments working together with businesses, to involve farmers and engage civil society in ways to increase the productivity and wellbeing of smallholders. There has also been a push to get greater environmental sustainability into agriculture, and to establish value chains that bring better benefits to both farmers and the local community.

This approach started out under the name The New Vision for Agriculture and has been taken further through an initiative called Grow Africa. Grow Africa has seen an improvement in the productivity of many agricultural systems, along so called Growth Corridors. Growth has also brought benefits to local communities and led to better standards of living. Grow Africa is now moving out from working in a few countries, and we are seeing a similar approach coming to countries in Asia under Grow Asia.

On listening to producers and consumers

My recommendation is that when you invest in agriculture, pay attention to climate and adopt practices that mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Look hard at your food systems. Make certain at all times that smallholder farmers get a good deal because unless they do it will be very hard indeed to sustain agriculture as a means of employment and prosperity for hundreds of millions of people throughout the world.

Most of all, bear in mind that agriculture is a discipline in transformation: new technologies are emerging all the time. But when you develop new technologies and apply them, please listen to farmers and to consumers. A lot will go wrong if the people who are producing food or who are consuming food, are not themselves involved in applying the innovations that we will need for the food systems of the future.

Author: David Nabarro is special representative of the UN Secretary-General for food security and nutrition and special envoy on Ebola, United Nations, USA

Image: Workers harvest soybeans at a farm in Tangara da Serra, Mato Grosso state in western Brazil, March 5, 2009. REUTERS/Paulo Whitaker